Beta: ESPN, CNN Tops in Value

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Both cable operators and their subscribers perceive Discovery Channel, ESPN and Cable News Network as the most valuable programming services, according to studies conducted by Beta Research Corp.

Among operators, ESPN led the way with an average perceived value of 88 cents, while Discovery Channel was tops among subscribers at $1.55.

"ESPN has ranked first [among operators] for three years in a row," said Andy Klein, Beta's cable-division president.

Beta's "Cable Operator Evaluation Study" involved 150 general managers and marketing directors and was conducted last September and October. Just over 1,000 consumers were polled for the "Cable Subscriber Study" last August through September.

Results of both telephone surveys were released together for the first time.

The rest of the top five operators, according to MSOs interviewed by Beta (see charts): ESPN2, Discovery Channel, Disney Channel and CNN.

Among midsized networks, Turner Classic Movies had the highest perceived value among operators, followed by Chicago superstation WGN-TV and Oxygen. WE: Women's Entertainment, Hallmark Channel and CMT: Country Music Television were bunched at 34 cents each.

On the cable-subscriber side, the research firm's finding listed CNN, History Channel, ESPN and Lifetime Television in second through fifth place.

Other basic-cable networks that cracked both top 10s were, alphabetically: Disney, Lifetime Television, The Weather Channel and USA Network.

As indicated by those dollar breakouts, subscribers tended to assign higher perceived values to the various cable networks than operators did, Beta reported.

And Discovery and ESPN were cited most often by operators as helpful in selling their broadband and video-on-demand services, Beta said. Other broadband boosters included CNN, Techtv and MTV: Music Television; while A&E Network, Lifetime and USA were cited for their VOD support.

Subscribers ranked Discovery highest in program quality for the 14th year, followed by History, ESPN and Weather. Hallmark led that category among midsized networks.

Nets react

In a prepared statement, Discovery Networks U.S. executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Bill Goodwyn said, "We couldn't be more pleased with Discovery Channel's continued success among all other major cable networks in this [subscriber] study."

Noted ESPN president George Bodeheimer, in a statement: "ESPN is committed to delivering maximum value to our affiliates, especially in supporting their efforts to establish new revenue streams."

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